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Diverse Priorities

For a growing portion of companies, BI is ready to start giving something back to the bottom line.

As business intelligence professionals assess their priorities for '05, early indications show that organizations will be engaging in BI-related tasks that run the full gamut of the practice. Unlike last year, when data integration and data quality dominated most companies' BI efforts, this year will see more improvements being made on the analytical front end.

The latest Business Intelligence Pipeline poll yielded some interesting results concerning the BI work that lies ahead for our readers. We asked you to name your biggest business intelligence priority in 2005, and data integration, at 35 percent, came through as the leading concern for this year. No surprises there, given what a huge undertaking it's been for so many organizations for more than a year now.

More surprising was the relatively even split between data integration and two other poll options: Data quality issues scored first among 27 percent of respondents, while analytical improvements rated highest among a greater-than-expected 29 percent of readers. Nine percent of readers answered "other." (We didn't include business process management or performance management efforts as options in the poll since the other choices we provided are, in effect, components of such initiatives.)

A lot of organizations, large and small, are ready to focus more energy on crunching their various data stores. This shows, at least anecdotally, that a lot of those cumbersome and meticulous data quality and integration efforts that have been underway out there are ready to begin yielding true analytical insights. If you're among those organizations, congratulations on what I know can be a trying effort. You deserve a pat on the back.

Elsewhere, we get a revealing look at where business intelligence stands as a priority relative to other IT efforts in a news item we ran recently. A Gartner Inc. survey of more than 1,300 CIOs in 30 countries showed business intelligence ranking second only to security enhancement as the top technology priority in the business world this year. The study also showed IT budgets growing 2.5 percent this year -- the highest increase in three years.

CIOs, Gartner concluded, are ready to start spending more money on initiatives that contribute to the growth of their businesses. BI software increasingly is seen as way for IT to help companies find ways to make business processes better and more efficient. "Business intelligence is changing from the quantity of data to the quality of data in terms of getting the right information to the right people at the point of need," said Gartner analyst Mark McDonald.

Business intelligence efforts will vary almost as much as there are organizations using the technology. But for a growing portion of companies, BI is ready to start giving something back to the bottom line. That's good news for business intelligence professionals now, and on the road ahead.

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